Notre Dame staggers, falls at West Virginia
This was not an opponent taken lightly by Notre Dame, despite the disparity in the standings – Notre Dame entered as the second-place men's basketball team in the Big East; West Virginia was tied for ninth. But, as Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said of the Mountaineers before the game, "There's a nucleus of guys here who went to the Final Four. That's all you have to say." The threat became real in Morgantown, W.Va., as West Virginia ran away with the game in the second half for a 72-58 victory. Thus ended Notre Dame's seven-game winning streak and any immediate opportunity for the seventh-ranked Irish to edge closer to the top five nationally. In addition, the Irish lost a chance to gain ground on conference-leading Pittsburgh, which was upset by St John's. Notre Dame dropped to 21-5, 10-4 in the conference, while West Virginia improved to 17-9 and 8-6. The Mountaineer crowd had plenty to cheer about. Irish standouts Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis fouled out late, and the West Virginia students capped off the upset by rushing the court. This was the third straight loss in Morgantown for the Irish, who haven't won there since 2005. Notre Dame has lost twice to West Virginia in Madison Square Garden during the Big East tournament during that span, including last season. Notre Dame led 29-26 at the half, but West Virginia surged ahead on a 10-2 run that included two 3-pointers from Darryl Bryant, who led all scorers with 24 points. West Virginia coach Bob Huggins and Brey both got second-half technicals within about a minute of each other while protesting foul calls. The Mountaineers pushed the lead to 15 at 65-50 with just under five minutes left. Notre Dame never got the deficit back under double-digits. Besides Bryant's streaky shooting – he scored 20 in the second half – steady guard Joe Mazzulla was a rock for West Virginia, scoring 16 points and controlling the offensive tempo. Kevin Jones added 14. Hansbrough scored 19 to lead Notre Dame, but was just 7-of-19 from the field. Carleton Scott scored 11 and had 11 rebounds, and Tyrone Nash scored 10. Abromaitis scored nine but struggled shooting on the road, making 2-of-9 from the field.
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